Do you need another reminder of what happened 20 years ago in that little hilly nation at the heart of Africa? Every major media outlet already reported this news earlier this year. You read, watched, you remembered. Then you moved on. Just like Rwanda, right? But Rwanda is still remembering. Yes, to grieve the tragedy of those 100 days, but it is more than that.
“Kwibuka” is the Kinyarwanda term for the annual commemoration of the 1994 genocide. For more than four months, the signs hung from nearly every major building on every block of every town in the country. The Flame of Remembrance, the symbol of Kwibuka, traveled to each district across the country. Kwibuka is about remembering the 1994 genocide so that it never happens again. Yet today, it is just as much about celebrating one of the world’s greatest success stories.
With all the fuss over corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol and other potential replacements for gasoline the past several years, it is easy to forget that ethanol is an important component in detergents. An effective, if not the most environmentally friendly surfactant, ethanol helps keep those fabrics clean. For years, corn-based ethanol was an important ingredient in Procter & Gamble’s Tide detergent product line. But that is changing as P&G, in a joint announcement with DuPont, have announced a shift towards cellulosic ethanol that has been 10 years in the making.
This is an interesting development for those of us who have observed the ethanol industry the past several years. In part, the debate over fuel vs. food has kept us captivated, and then of course there have been the endless media advisories from startup companies promising a massive ethanol breakthrough “in six months!” Scores of six months’ later, the reach and scale of P&G and DuPont’s partnership could help cellulosic ethanol become more important in our country’s energy, and chemical, portfolios.
I am in Kenya this week following the activities of Vestergaard, a rather remarkable mission-driven company that first came to my attention when they invited me to Africa — at their expense — to tour their operation. They operate at the intersection of water, climate change, and public health.
Vestergaard’s LifeStraw water filters are popular with backpackers and hikers and are therefore their most well-known product in the U.S. and Europe. However, Vestergaard also distributes LifeStraw products abroad and makes treated bed nets for malaria prevention. Most of the company’s emphasis, and their passion, lies in serving the developing world. In fact, their mission explicitly states that everything they do must have a measurable impact on health and development outcomes in developing countries.
Next up for the company is the “Follow the Liters” program, which launches this week. When an individual buys a LifeStraw product in the U.S. or Europe, a portion of those funds are committed to be used to obtain clean drinking water for children in Africa. Indeed, the commitment explicitly states that for each purchase, one school child will receive clean water for a year. Starting today, that commitment is being fulfilled.
Due to successful product sales, 125,000 children in 300 schools will receive clean water, courtesy of LifeStraw Community filters that will be installed over a ten day period, throughout Western Kenya. Each filter can treat anywhere between 70-100,000 liters of water. That works out to over 3 million liters of water purified per year. Over the course of this week, I will be visiting schools and watching the installation and training sessions and bringing you more details about this remarkable company and the changes it is bringing to this region. But for now, here’s a little history on the company’s approach to doing well by doing good.
At least 54-gigawatts (GW) of U.S. offshore wind energy generation capacity could be deployed by 2030, according to a new study funded by the Department of Energy (DOE). The “National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study” (NOWEGIS) focused on helping DOE achieve two goals: reducing the cost of offshore wind energy and shortening the time required to deploy offshore wind generation capacity.
Researchers from ABB, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Duke Energy, AWS Truepower and the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering joined to produce NOWEGIS. The research team used NREL’s Regional Energy Deployment System (ReDS) model for electricity generation and transmission to survey suitable offshore wind energy asset locations, calculated timelines for deployment of 54 GWs of clean, renewable electricity generation.
Study results indicate that 5 GW of offshore wind power could be online within a decade “using existing collection and interconnection technologies…[B]oth alternating current and direct current methods show promise in transporting offshore electricity to the land power grid,” DOE explains in a news release.
Measuring emissions output is the first step to reducing carbon footprint — whether it’s for a small company or a large corporation.
By Nancy Bsales, Terrapass
The world of carbon offsets, sustainability, emissions and calculations, and environmental responsibilities can be overwhelming for any size business, but it doesn’t have to be. At TerraPass we have worked with hundreds of businesses large and small (and everywhere in between) with teams that have felt overwhelmed at one point or another. But we are here to assure you that thinking about your carbon footprint and reducing emissions isn’t as complicated as you might think.
For many large corporations, the plan is in place, knowledge is available and the road to sustainable growth is paved. But for more than 20 million small businesses — defined as less than 500 employees according to Forbes — the road can be filled with forks and potholes, and the GPS reading isn’t always clear. This is where TerraPass can help. We don’t just sell carbon offsets. We also work to educate, calculate and offset emissions, build employee or customer engagement programs, or just to be a sounding board for ideas and understanding that starts the journey for your business in a new climate.
Many small to medium businesses start off the conversation with, “Why should we do this?” And that is quickly followed up with one word: “How?” These are simple question in theory, and they are best answered with an analogy.
So, why should you pay attention to climate change and be environmentally responsible? Imagine you learned you have high cholesterol from you doctor and that this high cholesterol, if left unchecked, could lead to a fatal heart attack. Wouldn’t you try to lower your cholesterol? Wouldn’t you want to know and do all that you could to slow or stop the process?
Flexibility is the key to reducing power plant emissions
A recently released study suggests stronger power plant standards to cut carbon emissions could save lives and offer significant health benefits. The study, a joint effort by Harvard University, Boston University and Syracuse University, evaluated the impacts of various policy options to reduce power plant emissions on public health. The timing is important considering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released carbon pollution standards, named the Clean Power Plan, for the first time in June. The suggested standards included a range of policy options, and the three universities’ researchers evaluated the three likely policy frameworks that would represent strategies for high, moderate and low targets for future carbon emissions reduction targets.
The study evaluated these three different carbon emissions policy scenarios for power plants to gauge which one would have the largest positive impact on public health. The first scenario, with the lowest targets and therefore the most energy-company friendly, would have only generated modest carbon emission reduction and created an uptick in public health risks. Another, the most rigorous plan on the compliance side, with high emission reduction targets but allowing no local flexibility and lacking any energy efficiency measures, reduced carbon but offered limited improvements in public health. A more moderate approach, which allowed for local flexibility in meeting the EPA’s proposed rules, actually showed the most potential for reversing mortalities and hospitalizations attributed to climate change.
Coca-Cola Life is on sale in limited locations in the U.S. South
The Coke vs. Pepsi “cola wars” was one of the 20th century’s greatest marketing campaigns, or scams, depending on your point of view. Both companies have become massive food and beverage giants while somehow perpetrating the myth that there is actually a taste difference between their flagship products (though insisting you can taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi is like saying you can taste the difference between a Whopper and Big Mac). But fast forward to the 21st century; while these companies are still strong, sales of fizzy drinks are flat. Some, such as diet soda products, are in decline or losing market share. Can stevia-based drinks reinvigorate the soft drinks industry?
The reasons Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s sales of their most venerated products have struggled are all over the map. Obesity rates and their connections to sugary drinks are one. Health concerns over aspartame, sucralose, and years before, sodium saccharine are another. In a society where many younger consumers want to serve the latest and coolest in their mason jars, cola drinks don’t exactly cut it. There is also much more competition than there was a decade ago. Walk into a convenience store and the variety and colors of cans and bottles demonstrate Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s competition. The soda giants even own many of these newer brands — any recent growth they’ve seen has come from new products, not sales of their older brands. Now two new products boasting calorie-free stevia root, Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True, are set to hit shelves in the United States, and both companies hope they can reverse the slow but notable long term downtown in soft drink sales.
What if you could get something back for all the time you spend interacting on social networks? This is the purpose of Bliive, our Brazilian startup that encourages people to share what they do best.
The idea behind Bliive is to allow people to expend some of their Internet time sharing knowledge. Think of it as a time bank – when you spend time educating someone else, you accrue credits to spend on learning of your own.
For example, you can offer an hour of Spanish lessons. In return, you receive a credit called “Time Money.” This credit can be exchanged for any activity available in the platform, like financial tips or dance classes. In the end, you don’t need to spend any money to gain something new.
The network is based on the concept of a solidarity economy, where the goal is to bring people with similar interests together. Apart from being a tool of social integration and cohesion, time banks also offer a simple and secure alternative for obtaining services without the need of a standard currency.
At Bliive, the spirit of collaboration is encouraged. People are able to utilize and show what they enjoy or do best.
With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
We don’t know about you, but the 3p team is getting pretty excited to attend the SXSW Eco conference in Austin next week. So excited, in fact, that we already have our daily schedules planned and ready to go! Here are 10 panels, parties and events we can’t wait to check out.
The first nationwide assessment of how solar energy is providing clean, renewable power for schools and communities across the U.S. was released September 18. Produced by The Solar Foundation (TSF) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) with grant funding from the Department of Energy, the first-of-its-kind study reveals that 3,752 K-12 schools have installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Installed PV capacity among U.S. schools has soared over the last decade, rising from 303 kilowatts (kW) to 457,000 kW, according to TSF-SEIA’s report, “Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools.” That has resulted in prevention of 442,799 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year, the equivalent of saving 50 million gallons of gasoline or taking some 100,000 cars of U.S. roads annually, according to a TSF news release.
Solar energy installations at U.S. schools are not only helping improve the environmental health and quality, they are saving schools, and taxpayers, money, and they are creating good local “green” jobs. Schools are using the resulting energy bill savings to pay teachers’ salaries and buy textbooks and other learning materials, according to the report. Furthermore, study researchers concluded that more than 70,000 additional schools could benefit by installing solar PV systems.
On what was once a factory shop floor in the Montevideo neighborhood of Palermo, 20-somethings huddle over their laptops at large tables or gather in minimalist conference rooms. Up one level, a 3D printer is surrounded by funky-shaped parts it had just churned out. A few steps away, past more offices, a ping-pong table is available for those who need a break from writing code or smiling and dialing for investors. Modern furniture in bright primary colors adds to a setting one would take for granted in tech centers such as Silicon Valley, Santa Monica or Boston. Judging by the logos I saw, the tenants here are an eclectic bunch: social entrepreneurs, tech companies and non-profits are among the of occupants.
Welcome to Sinergia Cowork, the first shared office space in Uruguay. For those of us long accustomed to co-working spaces—such as us at Triple Pundit, where we have churned out content and held events at San Francisco’s Hub for years—our reaction at first may be ho-hum.
But for Uruguayans dedicated to building businesses that can help create social change, this six-month old space is a huge and exciting step forward because there had never been a place for them to work, meet and learn from each other. The three floors of Sinergia hum with excitement—quite a contrast in this city of 1.5 million that otherwise I would describe as calm, placid and relaxed.
Covanta is making a $45M investment in a single-bin, recycling system paired with an energy-from-waste facility, the first complete solution of its kind in North America. This might not be news somewhere like San Francisco or Austin, both cities have high recycling rates and are often held up as municipal examples to follow, but Covanta is making this large investment in Indianapolis, in the middle of the Rust Belt, where the current city recycling rate is less than 10 percent.
Covanta operates or has an ownership stake in more than 40 energy-from-waste facilities in North America, Italy and China, but this is the first time it has combined a single stream recycling solution (Covanta Advanced Recycling Center) with its already existing energy-from-waste facility (Covanta Indianapolis Energy-from-Waste Facility) that has been supplying the city of Indianapolis with steam power since 1988.
Covanta’s Director of Communications, James Regan, explained that Covanta is always striving for more advanced ways to dispose of waste that “are a sustainable alternative to landfilling.” In addition to the commonly heard mantra, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” the company adds a fourth R: “recover energy.”
A host of federal agencies known as the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force have laid out a comprehensive “action plan” for the next five years to protect water quality, control invasive species and restore habitat in the Great Lakes, the largest surface fresh water system in the world.
The task force, created by an Executive Order in 2004, includes eleven U.S. Cabinet and federal Agency heads. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy chairs the task force, which released the latest action plan on September 24 in Chicago.
“The new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan lays out the steps we need to take to get us closer to the day when all Great Lakes fish will be safe to eat, all beaches will be safe for swimmers and harmful algal blooms will not threaten our drinking water supplies,” said McCarthy. “During the next five years, federal agencies will continue to use Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals.”
I was reminded of this sentiment as I reflected on what I have learned from spending the past month living and working in San Francisco.
As corporate citizenship moves ahead with establishing a strong presence on the West Coast of the U.S., I have had the great opportunity to spend time here talking to a wide range of companies on what sustainability means to them.
In my view, it is the differences between the companies I have met that is the key to explaining the vibrant and innovative approaches to corporate responsibility I am hearing about.
For some companies, the most important driver of success is employee engagement. People in San Francisco talk a lot about the “war for talent.” This is not simply confined to the tech sector where skilled graduates are fought over with bigger pay checks and better perks.
Across a range of industries, people now acknowledge that a company’s wider reputation and the values it displays can be a differentiating factor in recruitment decisions. So sustainability and citizenship programs are aimed firmly at employees (and prospective hires) with some amazing results in terms of participation rates.
Stories & Beer is a monthly “Fireside Chat” hosted by TriplePundit in San Francisco — BUT, this month, we’re taking it on the road to Philadelphia and New York City! Join us here in person – or online!
TriplePundit is continuing our focus on sustainability in the fashion and apparel industry for the rest of 2014. We have explored sustainability trends in fashion throughout the lifecycle: from the cotton fields all the way to the landfill. Water, is one of the most important and overlooked ingredients in fashion. How are fashion brands looking to work with the challenges of water conservation? With cotton and other crops? What are some of the ways companies are reducing, exploring less water-intensive textiles and working within a circular economy?
Greenwich: Oct 23 – Oct 26 Social Venture Network 2014 Connect with like-minded business leaders at an SVN conference, Social Venture Institute or workshop. Get recharged, supported and inspired! Register here.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
London: Nov 3 – Nov 5 Sustainable Brands London 2014 Connect with Sustainability Executives, Brand Strategists, and Design & Innovation Leaders as the Sustainable Brands London Conference convenes to drive the innovation that leads to enhanced business. Discount with code: NW3pSB14LRegister here.
New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
Redwood City: Nov 12 Corporate Philanthropy Institute 2014 Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers bring together many of the country’s leading CSR professionals to discuss changing expectations of corporate citizenship, strategic local and global programs and assessing the impact of community investments. Register here.
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